Thursday, October 6, 2016

Happy Birthday

                  Joyce Wanda Tolar
                  b. October 3, 1960

Do they celebrate birthdays in heaven?

Surviving another 365 days upon this wicked earth truly is cause for congratulation and celebration .

So that when I pass this milestone each year or you awake on your natal day, we exchange greetings, well-wishes and hopes for "many more."

We even gladly endure the birthday spankings (if you are so inclined), though where this perverse custom originated I cannot say.

I will venture a guess that the "one to grow on" symbolizes the pain that accompanies growth.

But what about heaven? Is it useful to count the years in a place where "time shall be no more?"

It is useful, though, isn't it, for we who remain to recall and celebrate the lives of those whose lives have so touched ours. Fond memories, tears and laughter flood our hearts as we celebrate the blessing of having loved and been loved by these dear ones.

Happy Birthday!

...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:16b

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Barking Dogs

If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, "Curse David," who then shall say, "Why have you done so?" -2 Samuel 16:10b

I think I have learned a lesson today. A young dog has taught this old dog a new trick, you might say.

As I began my walk this morning, a dog began to bark aggressively. And though he was confined in the neighbor's back yard, I took offense.

Actually, I must admit, to my shame, that I began to formulate a prayer for the smiting of this poor dumb creature.

And God (in his mercy), instead of smiting me, instead reminded me that in His creation nothing happens unless He wills it.

The story of David and Shimei occurred to me as did the question, "If God has told the dog, 'Bark at RB,' how can I say, "Why are you barking?' "

Cause enough to repent (of pride for one thing), but what of our fellow human beings? What of those whose whining, complaining or general negativity wear on our nerves so badly?

I don't believe I have ever called upon God to strike down upon them with His furious vengeance, and then they will know that He is the LORD!

Well ,maybe certain politicians (a couple of imprecatory Psalms and Acts 1:20), but I have since repented of these attitudes.

Back to the question. What to do with such people?

This is Spurgeon's take on the subject:

I believe David offers the best response for the Christian. And that is to remember that God has ordained that this dog bark.

Which leads the ultimate question, the one that must be at the heart of all our seeking: "How is God glorified in this?"

Then I may ask, "What good does He intend for me in this?"

Sound advice. I'll try hard to take it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How Was Your Day?

...and bring me my big piece of chicken!!!-Chris Rock

Are you easily offended? Then Chris Rock is probably not for you. His routines are laced with profanities and sexual references. And lots of uncomfortable truths.

This morning I was reminded of his "Bring the Pain" HBO special back in the 90's (amazing, isn't it, the things which trigger memories?).

Speaking of relationships (which he always got around to doing), he gave two important pieces of advice to guys. First was the importance of hammering on your kids to "tell your mama!" Moms need to be appreciated and kids as well as dads need to express that appreciation constantly, cause Mom's work is constant and ongoing. So tell her, kids, how much you recognize and appreciate the countless small (and not so small) things that make your life good.

Men, says Chris, don't forget to ask this question: "How was your day?" And then listen to the answer. You may reply briefly at the end ("I tole you dat bitch crazy!" if she works outside the home), but remember that you are not being called on to fix anything (unless you are specifically called on to fix something) but to express genuine empathy and understanding.

If you are easily offended then perhaps you should skip the rest of this.

One of the signs of being easily offended is to take offense when an inquiry is made about the events of your day.

This reaction for example: "Yeah, right, like you really care!"

If you believe this, what are you doing WITH this man?

Guys have days too, Chris pointed out. Like maybe your guy works for a real scheisskopf of a boss at a job he really hates. So you can have lights, gas and water.

Our needs at the end of a long day, he continued, are simpler: to sit quietly and briefly to unwind, and that BIG piece of chicken.

Me? I think God made husbands and wives to be a comfort and joy one another. To share simple pleasures. To laugh at life's craziness or our own foolishness.

As if life's hardest lesson might be to not take oneself too seriously, and to love one another as we have been loved.

And to remember; we are only "unworthy servants," having merely done our duty.

And how was YOUR day?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Your Island of Fun in a Sea of Negativity

He coulda had fun sometime.-Karl Childers

I have heard it said that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

Not that there's anything wrong with crying. The Bible tells us that there's a time to weep.

And, hey, even self-inflicted wounds hurt!

Nonetheless, I have come to the conclusion (don't stop me if you've heard this, just nod and laugh) that all the world is divided into two parts: the first where life is lived as a soap opera, and the place where life is approached like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Where I spend my days depends largely on how seriously I take me.

One of my favorite quotes is in the margin of this blog: "I am just a man, like any other."

In our Sunday morning Sunday School discussion this past Sunday, the word "entitlement" was used. It is the sickness of our age, I believe, and its most visible symptom is any thought or sentence that begins with "I deserve."

Well we all know what we REALLY deserve, right? I've also heard it said that if God never did a single thing for us besides saving our souls, we should rejoice.

I agree. But I know that he pours out such daily blessings that we can't count them. There's this, for example:

So how is God glorified in my trouble, my trials, my pain?

I find myself asking that a lot. It can be quite obvious sometimes. Other times it's one of those questions you add to the list of things you'll ask Him when you see Him face-to-face.

If you're not scared speechless at His holiness, that is (Isaiah's reaction).

Or maybe simply overcome with joyous laughter.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see. -Thomas Chisholm, from the hymn inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23

My heart has been heavy within me as I have prepared for the study of the 28th chapter of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters.

The arrogance and presumption of the demons that, given time, they might be able to "unravel the soul" of any of God's elect from heaven is galling.

But I am saddened beyond my ability to express sadness to know that some brothers and sisters in Christ are so foolish (and ungrateful) as to give credence to this outrageous lie from the pit of hell.

That our God, having saved us, is unable to preserve us in His salvation from the attacks of Satan.

That He might lose us, that we might be pried from His grasp.

That the devil, a mere creature, might thwart the will of his Creator
and defeat His holy purpose.

What then are we to make of Jesus' statement that He would lose none whom the Father had given Him (John 6:39)?

We have many promises of God's faithfulness in His Word. More than I could list here. No doubt, some of them come to your mind as you read this. Familiar verses, so precious and full of comfort.

And we have the testimony of our hearts as we recall with gratitude the mercies daily rendered unto us by our Heavenly Father's hand.

In this world, we may fall into sin, repent, and be forgiven.

But could we ever doubt God's preserving and sustaining love?

Be it not so, O LORD!

Friday, April 22, 2016

I Shall Not Want

The LORD is my shepherd....-Psalm 23:1a

Half empty or half full?

It's a daily temptation, is it not?

Yes, you say, but think of the blessings; salvation in the here and now, the promise of an eternal dwelling place....


But you know where I most often find comfort and deliverance from temptation?

It is in the countless small things.

Springtime's warm sun and light breeze.

Laughter and relaxation in the company of beloved Christian friends.

Work, believe it or not. Satisfaction in a job well done. The opportunity to witness (oh so subtly, at times). Interacting with image-bearers of God, however flawed we may be.

I have heard it said that God is in the details. I believe it.

To see His hand moving in my life and the lives of others, how could I complain of lack?

Goodness and mercy, the psalmist calls it.

Amen and thank you, Lord.

Friday, April 8, 2016


And we both know what memories can bring, they bring diamonds and rust. -Joan Baez

I heard a man speak of a woman he had known and loved in his long-ago youth. It was a strange thing, he said, that he could not see her face in his mind's eye.

There was poignancy in this matter-of-fact statement and the bare traces of pain in his stoic expression. Had he wept aloud, I would not have been as moved by the moment.

 No loss without love.

Memories. Do they bring both hurting and healing? The corrosive fraying of regret and loss upon the strings of the heart? But the sparkle, the glow, ---- of beauty revisited?

Have you noticed that our memories are crystallized in the music that we love? A turn of phrase within the lyrics, the upward lift of the melody. These freeze the moment in time and store it in our hearts.

Sandy and I have labored hard, this past year, to express memories and emotions in a musical context. It has been a healing process, a re-bonding of sorts.

We look forward to sharing the music. Our fondest hope is that it might help someone process their own memories. We believe (perhaps you do, also) that the sharing of an experience enhances it somehow; intensifies it, renders it less painful, makes it more precious.

It's like taking a picture and setting it to music.

You must remember this....